Fine Arts programs thriving at Neumann-Goretti despite national decline

By Rory Sweeney
Director of Community Partnerships 
Saints John Neumann & Maria Goretti Catholic High School

If you were to poll adult Americans on their favorite school memories, more than a few would describe an experience centered on the arts. Whether it was playing in the band, belting out ballads at the school concert, performing on stage, or the thrill of producing a prize winning painting or sculpture, participation in arts programs have provided generations of Americans with opportunities that simultaneously promote creativity and challenge one to deliver a product that is fit for an audience. Moreover, study after study has linked participation in arts programs to positive academic, social, and emotional outcomes.

Despite the many benefits of being involved in the arts, over the course of the past thirty-five years, the percentage of students involved in arts programs nationwide has shrunk by nearly twenty percent as budget cuts and an increased focus on standardized test scores in math and English led schools to divert resources away from the arts. Despite this national trend, Saints John Neumann & Maria Goretti Catholic High School can boast of a strong arts program that currently involves nearly 200 students and is committed to future growth.

Approximately half of the students involved in fine arts at Neumann-Goretti are members of the music program. Mr. Eric Proctor, Director of Neumann-Goretti’s orchestra and choir, is proud of what has been accomplished and looks forward to expanding offerings in the coming years. When asked about points of pride Mr. Proctored noted, “I was very pleased with our recent Christmas Concert. Students of varying skill levels were able to come together to execute our full orchestra pieces. We were also able to provide opportunities for our most talented and advanced students to showcase their abilities by breaking the full orchestra into a few specialized performance groups.”

Neumann-Goretti students perform at the 2019 Christmas Concert

Mr. Proctor’s vision for the future of the Neumann-Goretti music program includes performing for athletic events and encouraging students to become involved in opportunities outside of school. “We have the numbers to develop a pep band and/or drumline already. As the program continues to grow I would like to see more of our students auditioning for honors groups and receiving all-state recognition.”

Neumann-Goretti’s visual arts program provides additional opportunities for students to cultivate artistic talents.Through the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Art Futures Residency Program, Neumann-Goretti students who are enrolled in Art II and Art III will be working with a professional artist to create an interactive, sensory film installation that will be featured at a local art gallery later this Spring.

Mr. David Rodriguez leads the visual arts at Neumann-Goretti and is excited about the school’s partnership with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, “Programs like Art Futures helps us expose our students to careers in the arts and gets students excited about enrolling in higher level art courses. We are fortunate to have this partnership with the Art Museum as it makes additional resources available to our students and will assist the school in expanding course offerings in the visual arts.”

Neumann-Goretti visual arts students at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Even more opportunities to be involved in the arts are on the horizon at Neumann-Goretti thanks to the talent and experience of Dr. Joselli Deans. Dr. Deans teaches Theology at Neumann-Goretti and holds a bachelor’s degree in Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville and an EdD in Dance from Temple University. In addition to her academic background in dance, Dr. Deans performed with the Dance Theatre of Harlem ballet company for more than a decade. In the coming year, students will have the opportunity to enroll in a dance course taught by Dr. Deans that will expose students to dance elements of body, space, time, and force/energy as they connect to technical proficiency, physical fitness, and nutrition.  Furthermore, throughout the course dance will be explored from historical, cultural, aesthetic, and Christian spiritual perspectives.

If you are interested in supporting the arts at Neumann-Goretti through a gift of time, talent, or treasure, please contact the school’s President, Mr. Joseph McColgan, via email or by phone (215) 465-8437.